film

/Tag: film

Superheroes killed the movie star.

Interesting look at the rise and the fall of the movie star.

Like most Millennials I don’t really “get” the idea of movie stars; I’ll certainly not go see a film if it has actors in it I find reprehensible, but I don’t go to see films just because they have someone in them that I’ve liked in something else. This wasn’t always true—I went through a huge Robin Williams phase as a kid, for example—but it is now, and it’d never really occurred to me that the main difference between now and then is that nowadays the internet exists to give me an indication of whether I will like something or not. But back in Ye Oldene Dayes, actors were the main signifier (“I liked X in Y so I’ll probably also like them in Z”). Which is how you get an eleven-year-old watching Caddyshack because she liked Ghostbusters, I guess…

2018-06-13T07:30:40+00:0028th November, 2018|Tags: film, pop culture|

Endless endgame.

How superhero films inherited all the same damn problems as superhero comics.

Also shout-out to Film Crit Hulk for apparently having discovered how to turn the capslock key off on his keyboard.

Also also the whole thing about “dazzle everyone with constantly escalating conflict with no stakes and no payoff” reminds me a lot of, well. This.

2018-11-26T08:21:16+00:0024th November, 2018|Tags: film, pop culture, writing|

Where’s the jump?

As someone who loves horror but has a very pronounced physical reaction to, and thus dislike of, sudden loud sounds,1 this list of movie jump scares is just… mwah.

  1. Seriously. I can’t even be around balloons because the potential that they might pop frightens me so much. ^
2018-05-23T10:37:05+00:0022nd November, 2018|Tags: film, pop culture|

Nonflict.

Rachel Manija Brown on story without conflict.

I’m always really (a-har) conflicted by these sorts of posts, because on the one hand I agree—I love quiet scenes and cutrainfic and so on—but, on the other, I think in some respects they sell the notion of “conflict” itself short. Yes, there is an over-emphasis on superficial external conflict (e.g. violence, arguments) in a lot of media nowadays, see pretty much every action movie, for example. But, also, I think it’s possible for subtler forms of conflict to exist within a narrative, including metatextual conflict between the narrative and itself, the narrative and other works, or the narrative and the reader.

Brown mentions the “secret garden” genre, for example, as one that tends to be without conflict. But I’d argue that the attraction of the secret garden is, in fact, rooted in a metatextual conflict in this latter sense. That is, it’s the conflict between the reader’s unfulfilled desire for their own secret garden and the fact that the protagonist has one that the reader, by the very action of reading, intrudes upon and eventually takes over (by subsuming the book, and thus the garden, into their own memories).

Curtainfic, meanwhile, is a work that’s almost always in conflict with its own source material. A solid third of all fics tagged curtainfic on the AO3, for example, are in the Supernatural fandom, with the next biggest chunk coming from the MCU. These are not canons known for their fluffy domesticity! As someone who loves a curtainfic, and particularly loves its Villains Out Shopping subtrope, I can assert the fun in both reading and writing these scenarios is definitely in exploring the conflict their quiet mundanity presents against either the canon or the characters. (See also: why villain/antihero/antagonist fandoms tend to be full of “fluffy” memes.)

Like Roadhog and his pachimari.

For another, related, example, see any time anyone trots out kishōtenketsu as a “story without conflict” trope… and then proceed to give a handful of examples all of which include some kind of conflict. The fact that the conflict is usually framed as the story presenting contrasting narrative elements, with the conflict between them occurring within the reader’s head as a kind of dialectic—as opposed to direct “on the page” action—does not, in fact, actually mean the narrative is “without conflict”. But, like. Good luck getting anyone to admit that.

“But, Alis!” you might be thinking. “What you’re describing is contrast, not ‘conflict’. You’ve even used the word multiple times!”

Yeah. And what I’d argue is that, in almost all circumstances, when people talk about “conflict” in the context of narrative what they actually mean to talk about is contrast (a.k.a. tension). Two random characters having a fight is conflict, but it isn’t narratively interesting unless you’re one of those people who nuts to mechanized descriptions of fight scenes.1 Two characters having a fight over differing ideologies, on the other hand, is interesting, particularly when each side has some valid points and the audience themselves is engaged with attempting to determine who to root for and why. This is also why so many “popcorn villains” are so flat and kinda bullshit.

Think about, say, Strickland in Shape of Water, for example, who is pretty much the epitome of an uncompelling antagonist. This isn’t the fault of Michael Shannon, who does great; it’s because in the context of the narrative Strickland is just a one-note bad guy. He’s a bigot who hates the fish man! Okay, well… good on him, I guess. But the reality is Strickland could be replaced by literally anything else—including nothing at all—and the film’s conflict would remain the same. Why? Because the conflict in the film isn’t “oh no gubba gonna getcha fish, gurl”. It’s “ahaha in every other story like this the fish guy is either evil, or dies, or turns human at the end”. It’s a metatextual conflict, in other words, between the audience and their expectations for the genre. This is also, incidentally, why I thought the film was kinda meh; because I read a lot of monster romance, I have no genre expectation of the narrative going in any way other than “girl fucks fish man”. Because that’s how monster romances work!2 Which means the actual narrative itself felt empty in the “superficial conflict no contrast/tension” way.3 Also, the romance was really flat. Like, really flat.

I did look pretty, though. So… there’s that I guess.4 Also, it won a bunch of Oscars, which just goes to show why narrative conflict is such a minefield, since it leans so heavily on being able to anticipate the mental/emotional states of your audience…

  1. No judgement, you do you. ^
  2. Except when they’re, like, “boy fucks fish man”, or “girl fucks eldritch horror”, or “enby shares non-sexual intimacy with demon”, or whatever. ^
  3. Also see: the Obvious Hints that Sally is also, in fact, a fish monster. Meaning the story isn’t even “girl fucks fish man”, it’s “fish woman fucks fish man” which… eeeeeh. ^
  4. Though don’t get me started on the whole “sassy Black best friend with deadbeat husband” and “tragic queer uncle” tropes because, ugh. What is it about del Toro films and throwing intersectionality under the goddamn bus? ^
2018-11-26T08:10:31+00:0023rd September, 2018|Tags: fandom, fanfic, film, pop culture, writing, xp|

Outside outsiders.

Cthulhu, 2007. [Content warning for one female-on-male rape scene.]

Hey you. Yes, you. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Man. I really need more modern queer adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft’s seminal work The Shadow Over Innsmouth in my life!”

Well, my friend! Do I have a film for you! All of it, in fact, uploaded by the director to YouTube so you can watch the whole thing for free!

I found out about this film care of hbomberguy’s (you know, he’s the “Sherlock Sucks and Here’s Why” dude) video essay on how to adapt H.P. Lovecraft for modern audiences. That essay is also 100% worth watching, possibly before seeing Cthulhu itself, because it sets up expectations for the film (short version: it’s not a big loud gory horror, or a perfect film, and if you go in expecting either you’ll hate it).

hbomberguy’s essay tries to explore the question of just why so many people from marginalized identities seem to be fans of Lovecraft’s work, particularly when the man himself was such a viciously bigoted dipshit. As both a) a huge Lovecraft/mythos fan, and b) a queer woman and a member of an ethnic group Lovecraft… wasn’t particularly into (i.e. the slavs), the essay really resonated with me. Hence wanting to check out the film that inspired it. As it turned out, I… ended up really enjoying Cthulhu. It’s by no means a perfect film, but it’s a queer Lovecraftian psychological horror/mystery which is, like, 100% My Bag Baby. I know that it’s also 100% the bags of a bunch of you people (I see you, friends), hence… if you haven’t seen this film, definitely put aside two and a half hours (for the film and the essay) to check it out.

2018-07-18T08:01:55+00:0013th July, 2018|Tags: film, h.p. lovecraft, pop culture, video|

The glut.

I’m wary of all conclusions drawn about media in the scarcity age, including the idea that people went to see movies because of movie stars. It’s not that Will Smith isn’t charismatic. He is. But I suspect Will Smith was in a lot of hits in the age of scarcity in large part because there weren’t a lot of other entertainment options vying for people’s attention when Independence Day or something of its ilk came out, like clockwork, to launch the summer blockbuster season.

The same goes for the general idea that any one star was ever the chief engine for a film’s box office. If the idea that people go see a movie just to see any one star was never actually true, we can stop holding the modern generation of movie stars to an impossible standard.

Eugene Wei on scarcity.

While there are certainly actors I like—and I’ve certainly not seem films because they feature an actor I don’t like—I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a film specifically because of who was in it…1

  1. Directors, yes… but even still, that’s pretty rare. ^
2018-01-23T09:48:46+00:006th July, 2018|Tags: film, pop culture|

Stanley Kubrick is a fucking hack.

Yeah, you heard me. His films are bad. They’re sterile and soulless paeans to his own perception of his own “genius”, and nowhere is this more obvious than in absolute ratshit performances he can push out of even the most talented of actors. [Content warning for the link, which is about the abusive men of Hollywood.]

It takes, I think, a special sort of megalomaniac to so determinedly and systemically grind down the talent of everyone else he works with, so that only his own “greatness” can be recognized. Sadly, it seems a pervasive attitude in many1 industries, from politics to Hollywood.

  1. coughmale dominatedcough ^
2018-07-27T14:29:48+00:0023rd April, 2018|Tags: culture, film, pop culture|

Ready Gamer Dumb.

And of course you can read Ready Player One as a fun dumb fantasy. No one’s stopping you! But Cline’s world is not just one in which gamers get to be awesome, but also one in which gamers get to be awesome specifically because everyone else sucks. It’s a world in which women are trophies, the concerns of straight white men are all that matters, and the greatest possible calling of anyone’s life is the rote memorization of trivia at the expense of all else.

Constance Grady harshed your squee.

This is a really, really good summary of how Ready Player One went from the darling of 2011 to a target for derision and ridicule. The main difference between then and now? GamerGate. Basically, GamerGate came along and forced everyone1 to own up to just how toxic, empty, and damaging the sort of cynical cultural gatekeeping lauded by the book really is…

  1. And by “everyone” I mean, like. Straight white cis dudes, mostly. ^
2018-03-28T08:32:37+00:0028th March, 2018|Tags: books, culture, film, pop culture|

Player two.

The parts of Ready Player One that feel truly dystopian probably aren’t the ones Spielberg and Penn intended; the real ugliness of this world is that it is a fanboy utopia where every inane piece of useless trivia has some divine purpose, and where all the time these loyal players spent indoors consuming pop culture could very well be their golden ticket to total control over the characters and fiction they love. Ready Player One tells fanboys that the very parts of this culture that have become so toxic — gatekeeping, in particular — are actually good.

Britt Hayes is not ready.

As an aside, I am 100% Not Here for all the hot take thinkpieces trying to dis Ready Player One by calling it “fanfic”. What an unnecessary and inappropriate slight against hardworking—and mostly non-white-cis-bro—fic authors. Yikes.

2018-03-19T08:04:14+00:0019th March, 2018|Tags: film, pop culture|